This chapter is a very large exposition of two words in the foregoing chapter: the blessing and the curse. These are real things, and they have real effects. The blessings are here put before the curses, in order to make it plain to us that our God is slow to anger, and swift to show mercy. It is His delight to bless! And He desires to draw us to what is good by a child-like hope of His favor, rather than frightening us into it by a slavish fear of His wrath. These blessings were promised to the Israelites upon the condition that they would diligently hearken to the voice of God, and walk in His ways.
Among the blessings that were here enumerated, here are a few specific ones. The people would be able to dwell safely and easily, whether in the city or in the country. Their families would be built up and multiplied, and they would have an abundance in their crops and in their livestock. To this end, the Lord promised to give them rain in its proper season, which is called His “good treasure” (verse 12). In addition to these things, the Lord assured them that His blessing would abide upon all that they had in their storehouses and barns. They would enjoy success in all their employments – and this taught them that even when they were prosperous, they must not be idle; for that which makes a person rich is the blessing of the Lord upon the hand of the diligent (Prov. 10:4, 22). Another blessing that God promised to bestow upon His obedient people was that they would have honor and respect among their heathen neighbors, and that they would be victorious over their enemies. And to crown the whole list, it was promised in verse 9 that the grace of God would bless them in a spiritual way, as well as in these earthly blessings. He promised to establish them as a holy people. Having taken them into Covenant with Himself, He promised to keep them in the Covenant, and to give them the grace of steadfastness so that they would not depart from Him.
From all this, we may learn that true religion and a sanctified life are the best friends of outward prosperity. Although temporal blessings do not take up so much room in the promises of the New Testament as they do in those of the Old; yet it is enough that our Lord Jesus has given us His Word (and surely we may trust it!) that if we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all other things shall be added to us – as far as His infinite Wisdom deems to best (Matt. 6:33). And who can desire anything better?
Having viewed the bright side of the cloud, toward those who were obedient to the Lord; we are now presented with the dark side, toward the disobedient. If we do not keep God’s commandments, we not only come short of the blessings promised; but we also lay ourselves under the promised curses – which include all misery, just as the blessings include all happiness. Let us observe the justice of the Lord’s curse; for it was not threatened for any trivial matter, but for a refusal to hearken to His voice (verse 15), and disobedience of His commandments. Wherever an unsaved sinner goes, the curse of God follows him.
Many judgments are stated here in this chapter, which would be the fruits of the Lord’s curse. And sadly, a short study of the history of the Israelites will reveal that these curses were literally fulfilled upon them when they stubbornly refused to obey the Lord – especially when they rejected God’s own Son, the long-awaited Messiah, when He was sent among them. In addition to a general curse upon the obstinate sinner’s house, family, belongings, and employments; the Lord also enumerated many particular judgments against His people if they turned apostate. Diseases – and even epidemics – were threatened for their chastisement; as well as famine and scarcity of provisions, which would be caused by lack of rain and destroying insects. They would be smitten before their enemies when they were engaged in battle, and they would be plundered of all their enjoyments by their domineering conquerors (1 Kings 20:1-6). Those who will not walk in God’s counsels are justly left to be ruined by their own; verses 28 and 29 speak of the people under the Lord’s curse as being so blinded by their own imaginations, that they would not even be able to discern what was truly for the public good of their own nation. At length, after their enemies had taken away their houses, property, wives, and children; they would be carried away into other lands as captives, and those who remained in the land would be insulted and tyrannized by their conquerors. And to complete their misery, it was threatened that all these troubles would make them lose their minds (verse 34) – that is, their minds would be quite bereaved of all comfort and hope, and abandoned to utter despair. Those who walk by sight, and not by faith, are in danger of losing even their reason itself when everything around them looks frightful.
The more that the Lord gives us, the more we should cheerfully serve Him; He desires to be served with gladness. He desires us to fear His holy name and believe the good news of His Gospel of salvation. If we do not do so, we are outside of Christ; and then we can expect nothing except His fearful plagues.
There was once a wicked man who – upon reading the threatenings of this chapter – was so enraged that he tore the page right out of the Bible, just as Jehoiakim cut up Jeremiah’s scroll (Jer. 36:22-23). But even if one defaces a copy of these judgments, the original remains on record in the Divine counsels – by which it is unalterably determined that the wages of sin is death. The question is this: will we ignore these warnings; or will we repent of our sins, fly to Jesus, and find true blessedness in Him?
Lord Jesus, we thank You for blessing us by reconciling us to Yourself, and we pray that Your grace may convince many sinners to flee from the wrath to come! Amen.
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